A South African research institute said Thursday that a "low-intensity civil war" is unfolding in Zimbabwe as members of the embattled opposition Movement for Democratic Change fight back against alleged ruling ZANU-PF perpetrators of post-election political violence.

But the Human Sciences Research Council report added that a full-scale civil war is unlikely as President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF holds a "virtual monopoly over coercive power."

A senior MDC official dismissed the report, saying the party was committed to non-violence and was not organizing retaliation for attacks that have killed some 112 MDC members.

Human Sciences Research Council Researcher-Director Peter Kagwanja, an author of the report, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that South African-led mediation should be stepped up to keep Zimbabwe from sliding into wider conflict.

Deputy Organizing Secretary Morgan Komichi of the MDC formation of Morgan Tsvangirai said the party remains committed to nonviolence whatever the provocation.

The report emerged amid news reports and rumors that the ruling party and military were preparing for an even harsher crackdown on opposition leaders to pressure the opposition to accept its terms for a government of national unity led by Mr. Mugabe.

The Los Angeles Times quoted ZANU-PF sources as saying the violence is likely to mount as the regime boosts pressure on the opposition. The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Dixon Mafios, ZANU-PF youth chairman for Mashonaland Central province, as urging militants there to remain vigilant against Western enemies seeking to control the country.

Security and Intelligence Secretary Giles Mutsekwa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the opposition has obtained evidence that ZANU-PF has developed what he called "hit squads" to eliminate senior opposition figures.

Sources in Mashonaland Central province reported renewed violence in the Shamva South and Shamva North constituencies, saying hundreds of MDC supporters have fled their homes.

They said a woman severely burned four weeks ago when ZANU-PF militia pushed her into a fire on which she was preparing her supper died in Harare yesterday from her injuries

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...